Expired Film Teaches Me A Lesson

I’m meant to use this blog to talk about nothing but corporate photography, hitting those all-important keywords, shoehorning them into sentences until Google says “I get it, you’re a corporate photographer shooting portraits and other corporate communications images for businesses who care about the quality of their image and the values it conveys, so we’ll put you at the top of the listings whenever we think you’re what the client is looking for.”

Thanks Google, you’re doing a grand job and I should apologise that I don’t always make it easy for you by writing instead about magazines I like, exhibitions I’ve launched (actually, singular exhibition, but hey I’ll keep working on that), or my return to shooting film as a way of working out new ideas and pursuing my passion for telling the stories of ordinary people.

And this week I’m not making it any easier as once again I’m on the subject of film.

My return to film has been a bit stop/start but it continues. More recently I’ve been working with expired film, that is stock which is well past its use-by date. Yes, film has a use-by date because the light-sensitive chemicals which react to light start to break down.

However, I managed to source a large, mixed bag of film; 35mm, medium format, colour and black and white and I’ve been working my way through it with various trial projects and one project which has been fairly fruitful, that of a series of photos documenting the derelict site in Frome known as Saxonvale.

Saxonvale is an area of the town which has been left partially cleared for many years now while the various landowners and interested parties take their time working out how to make the most money from its redevelopment. You might say I’ve used derelict film to record a derelict site, recording not just the waste discarded there, but also sometimes the people who pass through or visit for their own reasons.

Some of the film stock I’ve used has been in such a poor state it barely rendered an image. One trip was wasted because the film was so utterly degraded it was blank when I processed it. All part of the project and a useful reminder to me that the film is the boss on this one.

In due course I’ll be updating my main website with some of these images, but in the meantime here’s a mini gallery to give you a flavour of the Saxonvale project. If you want to see more of it and some of the other film images I’ve shot lately, head over to my Instagram account where you’ll find me as @takeagander.

Get Some Gander and Pig In Your Ears

That’s probably the skinniest picture I’ve ever posted on my blog, but if you dare to click the play button you’ll get to hear my voice via the miracle of the internet.

Artist David Chandler interviews local artists and creative people for his Seeing Things programme on Frome FM, but he decided to interview me during the Faces of Routes exhibition. Sadly, due to a backlog of interviews, it couldn’t go up before the exhibition closed, but it’s an interesting interview in any event. Especially during the bits where I’m not talking.

Do listen to the end or you’ll miss the interview with printmaker Chris Pig. That’s two farmyard animals for the price of one!

Latest on Routes

Screen grab of the archive thumbnail images from the Faces of Routes exhibition.

The brilliant people who sat for the Faces of Routes photo session.

Great news! Frome’s best and only youth drop-in centre, Routes, has been saved for at least another year following a concerted campaign to raise awareness and funds.

Local businesses have run various fund-raising schemes and events and these, along with my Faces of Routes project and exhibition, have raised over £60,000 in donations with a few more bits and pieces still coming in, plus the outcome of a National Lottery application which was started before the appeal was made.

Routes manager Sarah Stobbart assures me the bulk of the money was raised as a result of the exhibition, with a very large chunk being donated by an individual who saw the pictures during a visit to Cafe La Strada in the town centre. I don’t know much detail about who, but I believe the sum was £30,000, which is brilliant and I’m thrilled to know that the service has gained valuable breathing space.

Of course this isn’t the end of the story, but with such a lot of good will and awareness raised this will make future funding applications that little bit easier. I still believe Routes should be properly funded by responsible organisations such as local government, but perhaps this stay of execution will allow these avenues to be explored further.

Sarah got in touch to say, “I truly think that the portraits, the use of them and the associated press has contributed massively to the fundraising campaign for Routes being successful – you’ve no idea how glad I am that you got in touch to begin with!”

In the meantime it’s fantastic to know that youngsters from Frome and the surrounding villages have somewhere they can seek help, guidance and a listening ear. I’ll be keeping an eye on things and will update here whenever there is significant news.

To all my blog readers who donated, a very heartfelt thank you. This has been the best personal project I’ve ever undertaken and without so much support it could have been a very futile gesture.

Thank you.

Routes in the News

Yes, Routes has been dominating my blog lately, but this has to be one of the most important projects I’ve worked on in a very long time, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer.

This is just a round-up of where we are with the exhibition, donations and stuff.

I’m pleased to say I’ve had some really positive feedback about the exhibition from people I’ve met in the street, through Facebook and twitter, but what’s even better is that Sarah, the Routes centre manager, tells me people have been donating on the strength of seeing the pictures in Cafe La Strada.

We were a little worried that the cost of getting the pictures printed and framed wouldn’t be met, but with a local grant and donations from individuals we’ve covered that now. Phew!

Now it would be valid to ask why Routes spent money on an exhibition when the centre so desperately needs cash to keep going, but the fact is the portraits and case studies and the exhibition itself have generated a great deal more local awareness than could otherwise have been achieved, especially in the few weeks they have before the funding expires.

Take a look at the local press coverage just this week. Imagine what it would cost to buy a full-page advert in a local paper, yet this week we made the front page and a full-page spread inside. This is in addition to the coverage we had in the last couple of weeks on the launch of the exhibition in both local papers as well as an online article in one of the most popular photography sites on the internet.

With that in mind, I have to give full credit to Sarah for having the foresight to suggest the exhibition.

The latest news I have is that grant funding for at least a proportion of the running costs is on the cards. Fingers very much crossed that this comes through and for the balance to be covered by other funding bodies, but in the meantime if you would like to donate, you can do so by Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070, or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project.

Routes Update

The launch of the Routes exhibition inches nearer, slowly. We’ve been working hard to find sponsors for the printing and framing because even though we’ve been offered a fantastic deal on the printing by Mount Art in Frome, exhibitions aren’t cheap to do.

The exhibition is important because it will spread the message far and wide to those who need to consider funding for services such as Routes (the local MP, councillors and so on), so if you feel you’d like to donate to the costs of the exhibition or to help Routes continue its work, please text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website www.mendipymca.org.uk.

In the meantime I’ve launched the Faces of Routes portfolio page on my website which gives you a broad preview of the exhibition itself. There will be additional images on show at La Strada Cafe in Frome, so if you’re in the area, do pop in for a lovely coffee, a piece of cake or an ice cream and take the time to view the prints and read the stories of the youngsters featured.

I’ll update you all once the exhibition goes live!

Routes to Exhibition

Happy New Year! Ok, so 2016 might not have been your favourite year, but the bright side for me was lots of great work with wonderful clients and some personal highlights I won’t go into here.

To make sure my 2017 kicked off with a January-blues-beating personal project, I’ve launched into one which is exciting in a number of ways; I was able get it under way quickly, it’s local, it has a finite duration, has a tangible purpose and perhaps best of all it looks like it’s going to culminate in a local exhibition.

It all started when, just before Christmas, I had been trying to formulate ideas for a personal project I could launch in the New Year. I wanted something which would not only please me, but also have some kind of impact either on those involved, or on its audience.

Then I saw a tweet from Routes, the youth drop-in centre in Frome. I’d always been vaguely aware of their work with young, often vulnerable people in the town, but didn’t have much detail beyond that.

Routes tweeted that their funding is coming to an end in March 2017, after which they would have to find a new source of revenue or close. While I can’t afford the £80,000 + per year to keep them running, I felt I could help them publicise their plight so I got in touch with the centre manager Sarah Stobbart, an absolute ball of energy and a real doer.

The idea was simple; I would take portraits of those who who either use or had used Routes and the pictures could be used for press releases and grant funding applications. Sarah added the idea of holding an exhibition of the portraits somewhere in the town, and so the ball got rolling.

I started shooting on January 3rd because there’s no time like the present, and with all those willing to participate we now have 13 youngsters, Sarah and her colleague Silky shot for the project.

The local press have picked up the story and one local paper is looking to publish the portraits with case studies as a series, while a local cafe/art space has agreed to host the exhibition for free for two months.

At some point I’ll create a portfolio gallery of the final images on my website, but I’ve included a couple of examples here to give you a taster of the work.

The main purpose of all this is to get funding for Routes to continue their work, so I’ll leave you with this plea from Sarah:

“If you would like to show your support and help to keep this vital service operating for young people in Frome, there are a number of ways you can help our appeal. By Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070 Or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project. By holding a fundraising event to help raise funds and awareness! Or become a ‘Friend’ of Routes!- Contact Sarah Stobbart (Routes Project Manager) on 01749 679553 Ext 5020 or e-mail sstobbart@mendipymca.org.uk”

Back to Personal Projects

 

It has been quite a while since I managed to get out and work on my personal project, People’s Frome, but on Wednesday afternoon last week I did manage to get out for a couple of hours. The weird thing is that whenever I decide I’m going to go and work on it, I worry there won’t be anything which will present itself to help move the project along.

And yet, almost every time I do go out, I find something that works. I guess that’s what they call making your own luck.

This particular trip was a bit of a mixture though. I’d taken a walk into the area of Frome which has so far been the anchor to the project, The Mount, and not seen anything worth a look. The light was rather flat and uninteresting; one of the strengths of this project so far has been how the light has helped set the tone. This time though, light wasn’t on my side.

The shot I came up with did include some serendipity though. I’d decided to show this path and fence with its view through to the Knights Maltings estate beyond (a relatively modern development which hugs up to a precipitous bank, above which sits The Mount). I’d taken a few shots when I heard a dog walker coming along behind me. We exchanged hellos as he passed and I waited for dog and owner to get to the right part of the frame to complete the shot.

Just as they got there, the dog cocked its leg and I grabbed the frame. I’m not going to pretend this is a modern classic, yet there is a lot about this image which pleases me; the balance between the rather grim fence and ticky-tacky housing beyond and the humour of the dog taking a leak and the way all the elements work together.

On the down-side, once I’d got this shot I carried on down the path, but while trying to traverse some flood water which was blocking my way, I managed to slip and fall forwards onto my camera. The camera was fine (once I’d cleaned all the mud off it), but I’ve been putting up with a very sore, possibly broken rib since. I guess that’s what they call suffering for your art.

Press Space for Storagebase

At a time when online marketing seems to dominate marketeers’ minds, it’s worth remembering that the local press still has the power to communicate your business to a well-targeted audience.

This is where the press release comes into play. Sometimes maligned, often mis-used or treated like a slightly grubby, distant uncle to all the shiny online marketing channels, press releases often fail through lack of appreciation of their importance.

Done properly though, a press release will get your business valuable editorial space. You can pay a high price for an advert, and while adverts are another good way to get in front of your audience, they’re viewed and treated differently by readers. Editorial is more trusted and allows you to get more of your business’ story into your message.

As an example, I was asked by Avalanche (a creative PR and social media agency, so local to me that we share an office) to work with them and their client, Storagebase, on a press release about their new self-storage facility and head office in Frome, Somerset.

The brief was to take press release photos to introduce the management team, the brand and the building to the local population.

I popped along to meet Storagebase’s MD Ben Morris and Jennie Wood from Avalanche for a pre-shoot site visit so I could get a sense of what shots would work best. Plus I love seeing the insides of buildings before they’re fitted out. This one had some really eye-catching internal structures and I couldn’t resist popping off a couple of shots during the visit.

On the day of the photo session the weather was a little tricky. It had been lashing with rain that morning, but it was dry by the time of the shoot. I’d hoped for blue sky so I could get some dramatic wide shots of the facility, but the sky was the same colour as the building and there was still a lot of construction going on, so I opted for something tight and punchy.

Making sure I included only the important elements (manager, assistant manager, hire van and the branding on the building) I ended up with a couple of photo options to put forward to the local press. Importantly, these included upright and landscape-oriented photos to ensure they would have a picture to fit any available page space.

The result was a picture and copy across three columns of the printed edition as well as an online article, again including the photo.

So when thinking about PR, don’t dismiss the press release. Done with care and skill you not only get eye-catching coverage in print press, but it’ll go in the online editions too. Plus you can often use the same images for other areas of your marketing such as newsletters, tweets, Facebook pages and so on – not always so easy with an advert, even less advisable with poor quality content.

Fun Experience in Frome

This week is mainly a thank you to Frome visitors Imogen and Ben who became accidental models when I was out and about last week with work experience photography student Becky Collis.

It was a quiet Monday afternoon when we took a stroll up Catherine Hill seeking a photographic opportunity for Becky to get to grips with. I spotted this stylish couple, classic film cameras in-hand, walking up the hill and approached them to ask if they would pose for us for a few minutes.

They were gracious enough to agree and patient enough to let Becky and I take turns at posing and photographing them. I decided we should apply newspaper rules to the task, so the photo had to have a news feel to it, would require captions and a speedy turnaround at the end.

The photos below show Becky in action, followed by her portrait of Imogen and Ben, then her action shot of me followed by my version. Just click to see them larger and to cycle through the set.

Becky caught some nice light outside Kushi clothing store, who also kindly allowed us use of their bench, while I opted to bring them away from the window front. The light wasn’t as pretty, but I got the separation I wanted from the background. My preference would have been to use portable lighting to lift the daylight, but this was also an exercise in minimal equipment (precisely because I didn’t have portable lighting with me).

Within about 40 minutes we’d returned to the office, processed and captioned our images and delivered them to online galleries in the same way as we would have delivered them to clients. Job done and a nice little exercise.

So thank you Imogen and Ben (good luck with your studies!) and thank you Kushi for the loan of your bench. It was the perfect bench test!

 

Hot Off The Back Of My Camera

Between paid assignments I’m working to expand my portfolio with personal shoots, so having spent the entire morning editing and delivering a job for a client from a shoot in Surrey yesterday (more about that in a future post), I grabbed my gear and got down to H&B Tyres in Frome for a mini portrait session.

I’d popped into H&B previously to check that it would be ok/possible to do some photos as and when I was able, and was given the OK by the owner, Mike as well as a green light from a couple of the tyre fitters there.

I wanted to use the opportunity to take portraits of these guys because A) The staff area is a fascinating jumble of car parts and machinery and B) I wanted to take “formal” portraits in a setting I don’t typically find myself in. Most of what I shoot happens in nice, clean offices with predictable lighting against a plain or office backdrop. I wanted a bit more of a challenge to see what would come of it.

From the shoot, which finished just over an hour ago, I’ve pulled one image for this blog post. I think one or two more may well find their way into my portfolio galleries.

In the meantime, meet Donald who, as it happens, is a fan of Don McCullin’s work. I think Don the tyre fitter’s pose might well have been influenced by Don the photographer’s work.